Monday, February 20, 2017

Zen and Civilization VI, or Gandhi Nuking My Piece of Mind

I’m assuming that everyone has gotten upset at people or things that weren’t really there. Or rather, we get angry at people, places and things that are not in the present. Perhaps they’re politicians or our bosses, old arguments, past acquaintances or family members, online trolls… the list is endless.

The way I’ve learned to deal with this is to recognize that my anger at things that aren’t in the present… is just Gandhi.

If you’ve ever played Civ  4 - 6, you might have an idea of what I’m talking about. It’s become a running gag that due to a glitch, the AI for Gandhi can go from Mother Theresa to slinging ICBMs in an instant. But what’s worse – and this is the important part – is that like all the other world leaders, he mocks you.

Not enough food, production, military, culture, or religion? Gandhi will interrupt your gameplay with some obnoxious quip or comment. He’s also a hypocritical dick who has no problem trying to convert all your cities to his religion, but will whine and start a war if you send your apostles to convert his… but that’s beside the point.

The point is, Gandhi is not real. Well, he was, but you get what I mean.

“No shit Sherlock,” I hear you cry. “It’s just a game.” Well, we only actually exist in the present moment. Therefore, things that are not in our present are not real either. But for some reason, we still let them upset us.

When you come down to it, the Civilization games are merely a flow of strategic choices. The aim is to pick the most logical path to your goal before the various AIs beat you to it. This can be done without any graphics or sound, but pretty pictures and obnoxious world leaders create a false narrative that gets us emotionally involved and keeps us coming back for more – even if the things causing this emotional investment aren’t real.

Like emotional distractions that are not in the present.

What if we applied that model to our lives? Not to get too much into the simulism theory, but what if we see life as a series of logical steps we can take to reach a goal, but our path is full of imitation Gandhis – things not in the now that we need to let go of – that create a possibly derailing, false emotional distraction?

Whenever I find myself re-hashing an old argument, or angered and upset by the news, work, or anyone or anything else that I have no power to change, I just imagine that it’s a cartoon Gandhi popping up and ridiculing me. Once the illusion is broken, I know I have a choice: I can recognize the distraction for what it is and stop validating it, or continue to let myself be sucked into an emotional spiral by something that is not really there. The more ridiculous I imagine his gloating, the more ridiculous I feel if I don’t immediately choose to stop. (And yes, just like when playing Civ, I’ve found myself bargaining to stay upset for “just one more turn...”)

I’ve also had a Yoda in my mind for the past thirty-five years who pokes me with a stick and chides me for never having my mind on where I was (hmmm?), or what I was doing – but that’s a different story.


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